Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) is really showing its commitment to electric vehicles. This year, the company will invest $135 million to both design electric car components and double its battery-testing capacity.
Over the past year, Ford has shifted focus to battery research and has added around 60 engineers to its employment roster. That means a total of over 1,000 electric vehicle engineers are on Ford's staff. Ford claims that they've managed to speed up development by almost 25 percent and will bring down the expense of hybrid systems by around 30 percent, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
Ford hopes to make electric vehicles of all kinds a centerpiece of their operations by having them represent roughly a quarter of all new vehicle sales by 2020. Last year, that figure was 3 percent. This puts Ford, the second-largest American automaker, in direct competition with Toyota (NYSE: TM), GM (NYSE: GM), Nissan (PINK: NSANY), and new kids on the block Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) and Fisker Automotive.
Ford will continue to hire engineering personnel and will rename its Dearborn center for advanced engineering the "Ford Advanced Electrification Center."
The company faces a lively battle, because in the first half of this year, Ford held 4 percent of the EV market compared to Toyota's 72 percent dominance. Moreover, its share of the hybrid market dropped off from its 11 percent standing thanks to its discontinuation of the Escape hybrid model, which had seen anemic sales anyway.
Still, we shouldn't discount Ford's ability to turn things around. The company was the first American automaker to sell a hybrid (the gas/electric Escape SUV in 2004), although its Fusion hybrid sedan is seeing sales down by 22 percent as of this year. This year, Ford offered an electric version of the Focus back in May. Later this year, they'll introduce hybrid and plug-in variants of the C-Max wagon, a new version of the Fusion hybrid, and will begin producing a plug-in Fusion sedan near the end of 2012, Bloomberg reports
Ford has, under CEO Alan Mulally, made fuel efficiency its number one priority. Ford rose 0.21% on Friday to $9.61. Overall shares have fallen by 12 percent this year.